It was hard to drag ourselves away from our little Miner’s Cottage in Walhalla but today we were heading to Hastings on the Mornington Peninsular to visit friends. We’d been promising to visit them for as long as I can remember, they probably thought we’d never make it … just goes to show!
We’d been guests at their wedding forty years ago and so how could we not come over to Oz to celebrate their Ruby wedding anniversary? It was also my friend’s husband’s birthday so there were two things to celebrate.
Considering neither of them drink, well my friend a little but compared to our consumption it’s a drop in the old wine glass, it was kind of them to take us to a vineyard after lunch. It was a good choice, Stumpy Gully wine is very quaffable and of course I ended up buying a bottle …for later. The setting there is delightful, no wonder the restaurant has a great reputation along with their wines and a very romantic place to celebrate a wedding too I would imagine.
The next day we caught the train into Melbourne arriving at the bustling Flinders Street Station. We walked around a little to get our bearings and then headed to one of the aboriginal art galleries, Koorie Heritage Trust in Federation Square.
These designs are amazing and I loved the display of the rolled towers in one of the galleries at the museum. After a refreshing cup of tea for me and coffee for my man we were off to see art of a different kind.
Hosier Lane in Melbourne is a lane full of urban street art, graffiti if you like. Even the wheelie bins are painted! One thing the guide book doesn’t tell you about is the smell, presumably at night this area is a refuge for rough sleepers.
After the mind-blowing effect of so much grafitti we headed back to Federation Square to The Ian Potter Centre which has a fabulous collection of art and is part of the National Gallery of Victoria. You could spend a whole day in there and it’s free admission. Here’s my favourite painting, it’s a bit ‘off-kilter’ but that’s the photographer not the hanging!
We decided to do as much as possible before lunch (as you can probably tell!) so our next stop was St Paul’s Cathedral. As an ordination service was about to start we weren’t able to have a good look round. The architecture apparently is neo-Gothic, partly early English and partly decorated. It’s a fairly austere building designed by an English architect but he certainly didn’t (in my opinion) try to copy any of our classic Cathedrals.
Now it definitely was time for lunch so we walked across Princes Bridge and found an excellent cafe along the riverside just in time to escape a torrential downpour! Fortunately when we were ready to leave the weather had sorted itself out so we headed back to the centre by Flinder’s Station and caught one of the ionic free City Circle trams, route number 35. After our free tour we just had time to pop into the other part of the National Gallery of Victoria before heading for the train back to Hastings for a celebration meal cooked by our hosts. Loved the traditional Aussie pumpkin soup, delicious!
As much as we enjoyed our trip to Melbourne we’re not really city people. We enjoyed being on the coast blowing a few cobwebs away and our friends were great guides and know all the pretty harbours and walkways.
All too soon it was time to leave although it wasn’t a final farewell as we were coming back to Hastings after the next part of our trip. So it was goodbye to Mornington Peninsular as we headed off to The Great Ocean Drive. The most direct route was by ferry first. Just forty minutes across what is known as Victory Bight from Sorrento to Queenscliff avoiding a long drive via Melbourne, and we saw dolphins, a real treat. More about the drive and our stay in The Grampians in the next blog.
Everything we’d read about the drive south from Sydney along the coastal route was true. The scenery is breathtaking! Although we’d enjoyed our stay in Sydney it was good to escape from the city. If only our roads at home were as quiet as this. Plenty of places to pull in off The Princes Highway and admire the view although we knew we had a fair few miles to cover and a couple of places to visit en route.
Illawarra Fly is famous for its treetop walk and zipline adventure through the tree tops. Maybe it was because the views weren’t great as it was quite misty that we were underwhelmed by our visit there. Perhaps if we’d done the zipline we would have been more impressed? So it was on to the next tourist spot, Fitzroy Falls.
Fitzroy Falls is actually the name of the village which was founded in the early 19th century. Today according to Wikipedia 218 people live there. You’ll see from the plaque below that the good old Europeans began moving the indigenous Aboriginal people out from the area in 1816. This was a very spiritual place for the Aborigines, a fact lost to those early settlers.
We enjoyed our walk through the forest and especially the views which were spectacular including the falls where the water plunges down over 80 metres. The Visitor Centre acknowledges the Aboriginal history of the region and sells locally made souvenirs. We both felt that this tourist attraction was well worth the visit.
After a short drive we arrived at Vincentia, Jervis Bay for our overnight stay. After booking into our hotel for the night, Dolphin Shores we drove into town for a beer. Fabulous evening with a golden light lighting up the Bay; it was so good sitting out on the pub veranda, that I had a second pint.
Very excited about our trip today. You just have to see kangaroos if you’re visiting Australia and today was going to be the day! We were heading for Pebbly Beach. If you take a look at their website you’ll see there’s kangaroos everywhere on the beach.
First of all we drove down through this wonderful, primeval forest which is part of Murramarang National Park. Definitely something out of Jurassic Park, it even smelt ‘earthy’. Arriving at the car park we started “roo” spotting. Was that a kangaroo over there? Maybe not. The weather was fantastic as we walked to the beach. Definitely very scenic with pure white sand and secluded but where were the residents? In fairness I don’t suppose they’re on the beach all the time and it was very hot but we’d come a long way …
We sat for quite a while soaking up the sun until we felt we’d had enough. We walked slowly back to the car feeling a bit miffed but just before we got there, on the grass by the bushes were a group of kangaroos. Turned out it was our lucky day in more ways than one as we hadn’t realised you had to pay for parking until we spotted the machine. No traffic violation …this time …but that’s a story for another Blog.
We stayed at a place called Eden that night. Not a lot happening there on a Monday evening. We drove round looking for somewhere to have dinner without success and arrived back at our hotel. Apparently there are around 3000 or so people who live in this coastal town, they certainly don’t go far on a Monday night!
Thankfully the next place we stayed in had a lot more life even though it’s a small village. Metung is very pretty and sits by the shores of Gippsland Lakes. I loved our wooden house at McMillans of Metung and had an enjoyable swim in the pool there. We’d definitely recommend this resort and the friendly people who own it. Another place we loved was the flower and tea shop where we had the biggest, squidgiest chocolate cake ever, it was divine! Thanks you Effloresce Flowers and Cafe, the walk into town along the boardwalk by the lake in the late afternoon sun was lovely and to discover they were still open was an added bonus.
Next morning we headed off to the wonderfully sounding name, Walhalla, which was an old mining town established in 1862. In its day the Gold Mine was one of the richest in Australia and the town was booming. Not like that today but it’s history is fascinating and of course it now relies on the tourists although at the time our visit it was fairly quiet. The town nestles in a deep mountain valley, it even snows there in winter! There’s a number of quaint shops all reflecting a time long gone. Our first stop was to the Grey Horse Cafe for a sandwich and a warming cup of tea. We sat outside by the War Memorial admiring the roses and feeling quite chilly.
Just up the road outside the General Stores was a chap feeding the King parts and Crimson Rosella, both beautiful birds, which you can see. He told us that they rely on him …I bet they do!
I loved the Victorian-style band stand dominating the village and made a note to walk up to to it on our way back from visiting the Gold Mine.
After the tour we had just enough time to walk back through the village to the railway station to catch the Walhalla Goldfields Railway. This is a narrow gauge railway, run by volunteers. It’s a great journey (far too wobbly to take any pictures) which runs through Stringers Creek Gorge, going over six large trestle bridges. Then it passes through the delightfully named ‘Happy Creek’ before arriving at Thomson station. The star of the show for us was Gladys, the volunteer who seemed to be very much in charge even down to waving the train off as we left on the return journey.
At this point we still hadn’t gone to where we were staying the night although we’d seen the cottage as its perched on top of a steep bank overlooking the railway. Stringer’s Cottage is a one-bedroom miner’s cottage tucked away and shaded by a massive mountain ash and black wood trees. It’s compact, eco friendly, solar powered and is bursting with character, we loved it there.
I’m sure by now you’re thinking that we couldn’t cram anymore into this day but we did. I have a thing about churchyards …anywhere, anytime. I was not going to miss a visit to Walhalla Cemetery which I knew would tell the harsh reality of life here faced by the miners and their families. It’s an unusual cemetery perched high above the town with apparently 1100 graves although only 200 can now be located which seems very sad. It’s quite tricky to get around, climbing up along the terraces and stone walls but we made it to the top and it was well worth it.
By the time we got back to Stringers Cottage we only had a short time to sort ourselves out ready for our meal at the only pub in town. In fact the only place in town you can eat in the evening and you have to make sure you’ve ordered by 7.00pm. The Walhalla Lodge Hotel, better known as The Wally Pub was just what we wanted. An excellent pint of beer and a huge plate of good, hearty food. Just what we needed!
By 9.30 we were heading back to our little cottage in the woods. It was really quiet. No cars, people or any activity apart from a few Crimson Rosellas in the trees. No surprise that we slept very well that night in our miners cottage.
We were off to Australia, our first trip to the Antipodes. We could have flown straight to Sydney but it was just too tempting to stop-over in Singapore after all, we’d arrive in Oz more alert without jet lag …wouldn’t we?
It was about ten years since we’d been in Singapore. Even at 6am and you’ve guessed it, feeling pretty zonked as we were driven from the airport, the skyline of the city looked impressive. Was it our imagination or did it seem like skyscraper city, with the ocassional area of green grass? How much would we recognise from the last time we were here we wondered, a lot can change in ten years.
We knew we wouldn’t be able to get into our room until early afternoon so after dumping our cases at our hotel, The Park Regis, we made our way into town, dragging our feet with tiredness. It was a grey old day which didn’t help to lift our spirits although it’s an interesting walk around the Boat Quay. Afterwards we looked around the very impressive National Gallery which is free to go in and huge. After a cheap and delicious Chinese lunch in one of the back streets we were able to get into our room and catch up on some sleep.
A few hours later and we were ready to hit the city. We headed off to Gardens by the Bay which is a huge, futuristic park in the bay area. It’s rated one of the top three things to do in Singapore and you can see why. Great place and it’s free!
So much to see in the park and the Light and Sound show which takes place every evening at 7.45 and 8.45 is spectacular. How they’ve lit up the trees is something else – an amazing sight. Huge crowds started to gather to enjoy this free show; you have find to a space to sit wherever you can. If you want you can pay to watch it from the Skyway but we didn’t see the point. We did agree though that when we come back to the city in a couple of week’s time we’ll go up to the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel and watch the display from there.
Our flight the next day wasn’t until early evening so we spent the day walking around the city, our first stop was the Asian Civilisations Museum. We love anything to do with Asian artefacts and culture. The gallery is on three levels and showcases not just Asian art and culture but also sculptures and paintings of Christian and Islamic art. As it turned out we could have spent hours in there, so much to see, it was excellent. I took a few pictures but the light in several of the galleries was very low. Their website has some good pictures on there.
Inevitably when you’re staying in Singapore the place to go and explore and enjoy a good value meal is Chinatown. Apart from the appalling smell as you pass the stalls selling durian fruit, the area is fun, colourful and bursting with life. Night time is best to experience the buzz, the smell of street food and enjoy the entertainment. We ate there both nights
On our second night before going for a meal we visited the Hindu temple, Sri Mariamann which is just around the corner from Chinatown. I don’t know why but invariably on holiday I come across a wedding and this holiday was no exception. We didn’t expect the temple to be full of people carrying food, a procession and loud music. We weren’t sure what was going on but it turned out to be the first of several ceremonies celebrating a wedding. Don’t know whether the bride and groom were there but there was plenty going on even if they weren’t! We couldn’t stay too long as we wanted to have a meal before heading off to the airport. Only wish my pictures conveyed the huge amount of activity going on at this temple and the deafening noise!
After another excellent meal in Chinatown washed down by a couple of bottles of Tiger beer we picked up our bags from the hotel and headed for the airport for our next part of the trip. Australia here we come!
Montreuil was a source of inspiration for Victor Hugo who wrote the novel ‘Les Miserables’. It’s recently been televised by the BBC and so several of our friends were asking whether this was the reason we’d chosen to stay there … it wasn’t. We thought that instead of going straight home after our mammoth shop it would be a nice idea to stay somewhere not too far away from Calais. Montreuil is only an hour down the motorway and it turned out to be a very good choice.
On the way there we came off the motorway at Le Touquet as I wanted to take a picture of the sun setting over the sea. I’m glad we did because as you can see from the shot above, it was a beautiful sight.
Having arrived at our hotel we got a bit of a shock as we tried the door to the old building which was locked and then realised the place was empty apart from a cement mixer! Major refurbishments are going on so we were relieved when a workman directed us next door to the open part of the hotel. We’d definitely recommend Les Hauts de Montreuil. We were given a nice warm welcome, the bedroom was huge and the meal in the evening was excellent and if that wasn’t enough the choice at breakfast was amazing – everything you could imagine include home-made creme- caramel!
It was late afternoon when we arrived so we just had time before it got dark to wander up to the ramparts. Apparently there’s 3km of them so Montreuil was pretty much a fortress and still is. The street, Clape-en-Bas with it’s old houses built of mud is very picturesque but as the light wasn’t good I waited until the next day to photograph it.
The following day was bitterly cold and very grey with a promise of snow later. Nevertheless we had a good walk round the town. I took a few pictures of Rue Clape-en-Bas and then we walked up to ‘The Citadel’ which was built on the site of a former royal castle. Just shows how important a place Montreuil was. Every summer the town puts on a ‘Son et lumiere’ show in the Citadel celebrating Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Miserables’
After walking round a section of the ramparts we ended our walk round by popping into the main church. I thought it was a rather austere building on the outside although the carvings around the door are interesting. The church dominates one of the town’s large squares (lots of free parking!) and dates back to the 13th century when it was a monastery. The fan-vaulted ceiling is impressive as is the altar, the stained glass windows and the medieval tombs. Definitely worth a visit.
This really had been a short trip to France but we’d packed quite a bit in and had a full boot of wine to show for it and a few other goodies too …and we beat the snow that fell on Montreuil that evening.
After two very enjoyable days in Liverpool we headed off towards Howarth in Bronte country. Gosh what a busy little place and packed with tourists even on a murky day in October! There are plenty of tea shops to choose from but I won’t be putting a hyperlink to the one we chose because it was overpriced and not a good choice. The tea was OK as you’d expect in Yorkshire but the minuscule piece of cake definitely wasn’t worth the money. Still it didn’t matter, we had a train journey to look forward to!
The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway has its terminus at Oxenhope which is where we caught the train. This iconic heritage railway reopened in 1968 and is run entirely by volunteers. One of the stops along the route is Oakworth station which shot to fame in the film ‘The Railway Children’. The journey is just over 4 and a half miles long with six stations each reflecting railway architecture of the 19th century. Although the weather wasn’t brilliant we still enjoyed the views and the Victorian stations. The decline of the textile industry in this area though is very evident with several derelict woollen mills lining the tracks outside Keighley.
After our train journey we headed off to catch up with friends who live just outside Howarth. We’d not seen them for a while so there was plenty of nattering going on washed down with a few glasses of vino … (ha! ha!). Then the following morning we were off again to see more friends who live near Silverdale Cove which is on the Lancashire Coast.
We hadn’t seen these friends for a while either and this was another lovely catch-up. Their eldest daughter who is eight was a baby when we were last up there and we hadn’t of course met their youngest little girl but we hit it off with them straightaway. Having said that it wasn’t long before the girls left us to our chatting …after all adult talk is so boring!
After mugs of tea and cake around the kitchen table we noticed the sun had come out …it was time to go for a walk. A short drive and we were at the coast and what stunning views to have on your doorstep! Silverdale Cove is beautiful and a great place to explore and photograph.
We rounded off the afternoon with an excellent pint in one of the local pubs before saying goodbye to our friends and headed to our hotel for the night in Clitheroe. My man decide we’d go along the top road heading for The Trough of Bowland. It was getting dark but light enough to see some of the amazing landscape along the way, avoid sheep in the road, flooded bits and see (to our delight) a barn owl fly past us. If that wasn’t reward enough the fabulous sunset definitely was. Hope the pictures do it justice. This road is not for the faint-hearted with twists and turns and heart-stopping moments in case a car comes the other way. We made it but when we told the receptionist at the Waddington Arms how we’d got there she was pretty amazed!
We had an excellent meal that night in the hotel and a good room and were surprised at how cheap it was compared with prices around here in Gloucestershire. After a hearty breakfast we wandered around Clitheroe on a wet Monday morning before heading south down the motorway and home. It was a great four days away, the weather had been typically British but that didn’t matter and anyway we might find some sun on our next trip which will be to Majorca.
When I was twenty I went abroad for the first time. Yes it was quite a while ago but I still remember how I felt when I saw those beautiful Swiss mountains; The Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, it was breathtaking!
On that holiday we drove over from Interlaken to Grindelwald, a pretty village in the mountains, in the heart of the Bernese Oberland. It’s a popular ski resort as well as a perfect place to hike from, so many walks start from here. One of the things we did there and it’s the only thing I remember, is going on the chairlift up to First. In those days it was an open chair, two seats side by side with a canvas top and sides that rolled up. Somewhere I have a picture of myself sat on the chairlift and dare I say …looking a little like Julie Christie? I know, it’s hard to believe now! My first trip on a chairlift and I loved it! Now sadly the chairlift is no more having been replaced by a cable car. I’m sure it’s a good way to get up to this minor summit if you’re not able to hike, but I can’t believe it’s as much fun as the open chairlift. Health & Safety hey?!!
A couple of years ago we went back to Grindelwald staying at Hotel Tschuggen which is run by Robert & Monica. It’s a small hotel on the main street and from the back you get a magnificent view across the valley to the mountains. It’s an excellent place to stay with comfortable rooms and a delicious breakfast with home-made yogurt and of course a range of locally made cheeses. The owners are lovely and are so welcoming and very helpful. We loved the town and the area so much and the hotel and the pizzas at Onkel Toms that we went back to Grindelwald again this year.
One of the things we wanted to do for the second time was to go on the Mannlichen Gondola cableway. It’s the third longest in the world and it’s just an amazing experience. We love the little gondolas which hold up to four people but guess what …this is the last season they will be running. From next year the little gondolas are being replaced by a cable car. Its a shame but for the operators they can get more people up there in a quicker time. Easier for skiers too.
The summit at Mannlichen complete with a very large wooden cow! Great fun climbing inside and playing the cow bells.
The drop below to the Lauterbrunnen valley didn’t seem to bother this chap!
We’re all ready for the hike. Had to take a view of the Wetterhorn and of course the Eiger. Not a cloud in sight!
If I didn’t stop to take pictures we would easily get to Kleine Scheidegg in two hours. It’s a simple, short hike with one of the most beautiful backdrops in the world. A fantastic view of the mountains, Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau.
Not long before you get to Kleine Scheidegg station there just happens to be a watering hole on the route, Berghaus Grindelwaldblick. My man decided a beer was called for and I went for a Swiss wine from the village of Yvorne. We had stopped at the village crossing over from France a couple of days earlier and had spent a pleasant hour on a Sunday morning tasting a selection of their wines.
I just wasn’t ready for all the alpine flowers which were growing everywhere. This alpine hike has everything!
Although there’s no denying that Switzerland is an expensive country, if you can, do go. The scenery in the Bernese Oberland is wonderful …it’s breathtaking and unique. Pictures can’t do it justice. It’s pretty much unspoilt and hopefully it’ll remain so. I do feel very lucky to have done several hikes in this area and hopefully my man and I will be back before too long.
Although we were sad to leave Provence we were so excited about staying in Switzerland for a few days. On the way however we’d booked into an inexpensive little hotel right on the shore of Lake Geneva in a village called Meillerie.
Is there anywhere by this beautiful lake that isn’t amazing? The views are stunning and the scenery …breathtaking. Meillerie is on the French side of the lake just a spit away from the Swiss border. It isn’t posh like Evian and the hotel, Les Terrasses certainly wasn’t expensive. The bathroom was smaller than our double-wardrobe at home but it had everything squeezed in there so no complaints and the breakfast was very good. The room even had a little balcony looking over the lake.
We’d already booked a table at the lakeside restaurant just down the road as it had very good reviews and deservedly so. We had also stopped there just for drinks two years earlier when we were travelling from Switzerland to Provence. Le Restaurant du Port is a really busy place and is only open between May & the end of September. This is the place to get perfect fish …of course.
By luck we’d been given a table right by the side of the lake and even more exciting was the sunset that evening. I cursed that I hadn’t got my camera with me but my mobile has done a pretty good job. What I couldn’t understand was why I was the only one bobbing up and down taking pictures?!
Maybe the reason was that sunsets over the lake happen quite a lot and I guess most of the people at the restaurant were locals although definitely not all.
My man is quite understanding about me taking pictures; he’s used to it so he didn’t mind me jumping up and down to take yet another one. He knew I wouldn’t ignore a sunset as good as this and anyway the meal hadn’t arrived yet and he was tucking into the wine, so that was okay!
What a night! A fantastic meal, a superb setting and an unforgettable sunset oh and the wine was pretty good too!